Fat Albert Joel Zwick

Kenan Thompson stars in this could-have-been-worse live action update of the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon series. The plot hangs itself on a lonely teenage girl named Doris (Kyla Pratt) and her plight to fit in. While moping around in front of her television, Doris's angst-y tears fall onto the TV remote, causing the Cosby Kids to heroically jump out of her TV, drink all of her soda pop and fix her social situation while Albert seduces her older sister. The idea of cartoon characters from the '70s adapting to their flesh-and-blood incarnations in 2004 is, at least, a fresh concept when compared to other throwback films. It's too easy to pick apart a mediocre kiddie movie complete with showy rap sequence ("Gonna Have a Good Time" didn't need a Nelly beat 30 years ago and still doesn't) and cameos by Aaron Carter and that scamp from Good Charlotte, so why not stick to what worked? With creator Bill Cosby writing the script (and making a cameo), there's a lot of self-reflexive humour that makes the movie surprisingly tolerable. Also, there's a cute sentimental bit showcasing the aging folks that inspired each of the original cartoon characters; unfortunately once you dip into the special features, the commentary dashes all the warm fuzziness by letting you know that the real character inspirations are dead and the old folks used in the film are just close facsimiles. Bummer. To make up for the lack of features, the commentary manages some level of entertainment value. This lies partly in the list of inside nods to the TV series that you miss while watching the film in passing, but mostly in the fact that the screenwriter sounds ghoulishly like Woody Allen and it's great fun to pretend that Woody Allen is keen on the logistics of a Fat Albert movie. Plus: extended scenes, trailers. (Fox)